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The Org Chart as a Management Tool

Ian Jackson

It’s a story that has played out more times than we care to remember.  Chances are good that you’ve seen it happen.

An executive in your organization is flipping through a three-ring binder looking for some document, and there, on the third page, is a yellowed, wrinkled, coffee-stained copy of the “Org Chart” for the firm.  A post-it is attached to the page so that it peeks out the top with a note saying, “please update.” The binder is then placed on the administrative assistant’s desk.  And not another thought is given to the issue.

A Set of Boxes

Binders-200x325In many organizations the Organization Chart is often simply viewed as a “set of boxes” on a page, and is only used – if at all - as an administrative tool to track positions and people.

The “Org Chart” is typically not up-to-date, and consequently there is no coherent picture as to the status or the related costs of many positions.   In fact, there is little opportunity for managers to take a top-down view of the actual status of employees as they are shifted from position to position to meet changing organizational priorities.

This removes an important tool from the manager’s toolkit with the result that tactical decisions are being made from the perspective of a single position and/or employee.

A current, continuously updated, and - most important - visible, “Org Chart” enables a more strategic approach to HR management.

The Map to Success

The “Org Chart” should be seen as an important tool that guides the organization of work to deliver on expected results and organizational objectives.

Priorities change.  Business plans evolve. Therefore, it is critical that organizational structures be adjusted. Work requirements are used to clearly define the changing roles and responsibilities of employees to reflect the evolving mandate of the organization.

Managers should view the “Org Chart” as a strategic tool that aligns expected organizational results and outputs with direction to employees on work objectives and learning needs.

Numerous employee surveys have highlighted the need to clearly communicate where the organization is going, what is expected of employees, and what learning is required to enable them to deliver.  The “Org Chart” provides the manager with a map to deliver on these requirements.

So, what's your experience?  Do you find the "Org Chart" a useful strategic tool or one more "check box" that someone decided needs to be in the official binder?


I would agree that org charts are a tool within an organizational context. Over three decades, while both in and out of management positions, it never ceased to amaze me at how uninformed (perhaps clueless is a better word) managers were when it came to understanding their resource allocations, actual on-paper org structure, incumbents, acting, etc. When it came to downsizing or restructuring, the anxiety grew among managers as they fumbled for their official org charts to figure out to which positions staff were supposedly affixed.

But they’re a tool. I don’t agree org charts are a strategic tool. They’re used in support of such strategic communication vehicles as organizational vision, mission, goals, objectives and priorities. The challenge for senior management is to engage the hearts and minds of all employees, focusing their energies on a common purpose through inter-dependent work.

As much as organization charts have a purpose, when management walks the talk on a daily basis, communicating what I just described, that’s what really matters.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/02/14

The clarity of organization that org charts helps teams align and individuals contribute. But, as you say, they are chronically up to date.

Maybe even more importantly, they fail to capture the dynamic formation of cross-silo initiatives, project teams, committees, etc.

But with the advent of web enabled software it is now possible to replace static, top-down org charts to gain dynamic clarity with input from across the organization.

Brad Palmer

P.S. Full disclosure: I’m the founder of—just such a tool.

By Brad Palmer on 2011/05/14

Org chart is a great management tool due to few reasons. I will add them here,

1. It helps the decision making process in an organization

2. It helps to identify the key performers in an organization.

3. It helps to balance your companies staff in order to archive your goals.

Making and updating your org chart once in a while from a org chart software is necessary as your company changes over time.

By Shalin on 2015/08/24

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About this Article

Posted by Ian Jackson
Posted on February 11, 2011

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Categories: hr & talent management, management, organizational development, strategy